4 New Norms for Men in the New Year
The story started as a hashtag and in a mere three months it became the biggest and most significant of 2017. TIME magazine featured the silence breakers of the #metoo movement as their ‘Person of the Year’ and the Canadian press followed suit by naming sexual harassment as the most compelling news story of the year. Pundits on both sides of the border say it is predicted to be one of the most reported issues in 2018. Behavioral expectations are changing, which is leading to confusion for many men. They are wondering if they can still ask a woman if she has a boyfriend, compliment her on an outfit, or extend a platonic hug? Tensions are high and tolerance is low, leading me to predict the margin for error for men is much narrower than ever before. Therefore, I offer the following 4 new norms for men to consider when making 2018 new year’s resolutions:
- Expect Public Shaming to Continue – Women are tired of getting groped, tongued with forced kisses or receiving come-ons from bosses. Women are less likely to ‘go along to get along’ so the stories will continue to become public with people rallying to their side. More than 80% of respondents in a TIME survey believed that women are more likely to speak out about harassment since the Weinstein allegations and 85% said they believe the women who have ended their silence. Gathered together under the ‘umbrella of solidarity’ women are formalizing the whisper network by speaking out loudly for all to hear. Their fear has become fury and they want to transfer the shame they have borne to where it belongs, firmly with their perpetrators. The power is shifting so a wise man would resolve to eliminate any action which could be misconstrued. Some of those that are obviously objectionable are:
- telling sexual stories
- distributing sexist cartoons or videos
- making sexual gestures
- touching someone in a way that makes them uncomfortable
- implying rewards if someone engages in sexual behavior
This is a time of confusion for many men, especially for those who have not engaged in harassment behaviors. They don’t know what to say or how to act around women, so I offer a rule of thumb to follow – Ask yourself if the action or comment is one you would make to a man who was your superior and if not, it’s best to suppress it.
- Expect Zero Tolerance – If you are a man, it is no longer OK to pat women on the rear end and think that it wasn’t serious so therefore not worth worrying about. Just because it wasn’t rape doesn’t mean it is acceptable. Unless you are a woman who has faced this demeaning and invasive practice from the wide-range of men in your life (strangers, superiors, colleagues, customers and friends) you’ll never know how daily abuse robs you of your individuality and sense of self-worth. While your action might not meet the legal standard for sexual harassment, it might meet the psychological standard and this can be equally damaging on your reputation. Additionally, even milder forms of harassment are objectionable if they happen frequently. It is death by 1,000 cuts. My Mom always said, that the pendulum swings both ways before it comes back to the middle so expect zero tolerance and resolve to question all your actions. Consider whether you have been a complicit enabler of sexual misconduct or maybe even been an inadvertent contributor yourself.
Some men believe that harassment is only confined to the work place, and in fact, it is not. Respect toward women should take place in all situations. Never assume women will accept comments like, “Hey, I don’t see a ring on that finger, I guess you are single.” There are all kinds of assumptions wrapped up in comments such as that.Men complain that they can no longer even compliment a woman’s hair clothes, or smile. What you need to understand is that women want to be noticed for other things:
- Their intelligence
- Their hard work
- Their contributions
- Their ingenuity
When all women hear is that they have fashion sense and are pretty, they often do not feel valued, and that they are not worth anything without correctly applied makeup. Make a point of complimenting them on things you would want to be complimented on.
- Become an Active Bystander – A recent NY Times study found that sexual harassment culprits are no longer restricted to the bad actors themselves but include the climate created by co-workers. I predict that going forward women will determine that a ‘good man’ is more than one who doesn’t harass. The bar has risen, and women expect men to intervene. Rather than looking the other way as part of the ‘bro fraternity’ when a woman is being objectified, a man should resolve to be an active ally rather than a passive bystander. The NY Times recommended a man disrupt the situation by diverting the perpetrator’s attention in another direction (maybe invite the guy for a coffee or snack) or approach the harasser later and ask, “Let me help you understand how you came off”. Finally, rather than carrying on and denying the incident happened, a man can reach out to the woman and ask if she is OK. Recognition of her feelings will go a long way.
- Become a Feminist Man – Women need men who are concerned about the equality and well-being of women who aren’t their mother, sister, aunt or daughter. In this new era, men are expected to conduct themselves with care and consideration reflecting respect for shared humanity and not expect to be congratulated for it. When a behavior becomes the norm there is no applause or trophies, it is just expected. Do you get a standing ovation for arriving at work on time with your pants on? No, because that is just the norm and expected. If you violate a norm, there are usually quick and decisive consequences. I predict that women will no longer praise men and thank them for simply treating them well. It is what they should be doing in the first place. If you are a man recognize that there will be no ‘atta boy’ for refraining from patting butts or participating in lewd comments. Resolve to be a role model of professionalism. Be kind and ‘do not do onto others what you would not have done onto you’.
We are long past the time when sexual behavior was considered acceptable. We are now establishing new boundaries for inappropriate and destructive behavior, women are refusing to sell their silence and the world is listening. What will you resolve to do this new year to be an active part of this much needed revolution?